I’ve always wanted to try and keep a diary in one form or another. Either the classic week to a page view to keep track of events or appointments, the ‘dear diary’ format where I can vent out some of my feelings or a pretty and creative bullet journal. But I’ve never been able to consistently do it, the reason being I don’t know how to use a diary or journal to best fit my needs. I think one of the reasons for this is because I’ve never really sat down and thought about my needs or what I would like to get from a journal, how do I want it to help me and how will it fit into my life. So with the extra time I have on my hands, and the beginning of the new month just passing, I thought it would be a great time to put some work into it.
For the first time in a really long time, I wanted to set myself some goals for the month of May. I’m not usually good at these because I never keep in mind the need for goals to be realistic and I never think about how I’m going to achieve them with the time and resources available to me. For example, right now isn’t really the time to say I’m going to join a gym because they’re all closed, and I don’t really have enough time in one month to learn a whole language, but that’s the sort of thing I would normally set for myself. Then come the end of the month when I have undoubtedly failed, I feel awful and convince myself it’s because I’m an incapable human being. Not because it’s not realistic to learn a whole language in a month.
So on the first of the month, I sat down and spent some time thinking about things I would like to try and do and whether or not I could do them realistically in the time frame I’ve got, but also with the resources I’ve got. I then decided that a journal might be a good way to log my goals and keep track of them. So I decided that starting an effective and useful journal would be my first goal for the month. Rather than rush in as I have in the past, I spent some time thinking about what I wanted from my journal, how did I want it to look, how much time each day did I want to spend using it and what did I want to get from it. I looked online at pre-printed journals and noted down what I liked in them first in regards to the layout; monthly planning, weekly planning and daily reflection. Then I thought about the content and what I wanted to use each section for and made a list of what I liked for each space. Finally, I reflected on what I would actually find useful and what I would probably end up getting rid of in the long term. For example, I initially thought about having a spending tracker on my monthly planning page, however I already run a budget each month so I thought I would be able to better use the space for something else.
Now I know what you’re thinking, all this planning sounds really effective and I’ve obviously got my head screwed on. Let me burst my own bubble here, I’m normally the type of person that rushes into everything as soon as the idea comes into my head and inevitably ends up getting frustrated, bored or angry because something didn’t work out the way I hoped because I just did it without planning and thinking something through. This is something that I’m trying to work on as a person and I must say, so far it’s going really well. I’ve spent less money by giving myself a few days to think about purchases and I’ve managed to finish tasks better because I give myself time to plan and consider options before I just jump in.
Back to the journal though. Once I had a plan of the layout I wanted to use and the things I wanted to keep track of, I found myself a notebook in the house, some pens and highlighters and spent a good hour or so setting it all up. I’m so happy that I spent the time to really think about what I wanted to use my journal for and how I wanted it to look because once I had finished setting it up, I loved it! And that only wants to make me use it more. Below I’ll list out the sections that I’ve got in my journal to give you an idea of how I use it to benefit my life everyday.
- Monthly planning space (one page): Here I note down the new month, choose a word of the month which might be something I want to work on getting better at such as ‘confidence’, something I want to display such as ‘love’ or anything else that might inspire me. My word of the month for May is ‘resilience’. I also have space here to list down my goals for the month and space below that to think about how I will achieve them.
- Weekly planning space (half a page): I don’t use this space to plan the week in terms of events (that’s what my phone calendar is for) but more to plan my mindset. I have space to note down what my weekly blog post will be, somewhere to reflect on anything that inspired me in the week before and space to think about how I can improve by 1% this week. I also pop a little post it note in with a nice affirmation on it.
- Daily space (half a page per day): This space is more of a place I can reflect on what I have done each day and think about what I’m going to achieve the next day. I keep my writing short and to the point to encourage me to reflect but not write war and peace. Each day I write one line on; three things I’m grateful for that day, one thing I’ve worried about (and reflect the next day), exercise, self care, meditation/mindfulness (another goal for May), tomorrow’s achievement, today’s lesson and what my anxiety level has been out of 10.
- Reflection on the month (one page): On this page I will reflect on how I have done with my word of the month but also on my goals for the month. Did I achieve them, what have I learned, what will I change next month, etc.
Before I fill in that days notes before bed, I take time to reflect on the day before. For example, am I still thinking about the thing I wrote as my worry. So far, writing it down has been enough to get it out of my head and allow me to realize that it wasn’t worth worrying about. I also remind myself that I don’t have to fill in every section every day. So I don’t need to feel bad if I haven’t done exercise everyday or if the only self care I’ve done is taking some time to meditate. The whole process is to allow me to try and do more to help myself such as exercise each day but also reflect on worries and achievements, but not beat myself up if I haven’t had a ‘good day’ (whatever that is meant to look like).
I’m trying this throughout May to see how it impacts my life and will carry it on if I like. I encourage you to try it even for a week to see if you notice a difference and please tell me about your experiences. I’m hoping I’ve finally created a journal that works for me and allows me to improve a little everyday and learn to slow down, reflect and give myself space to succeed as well as fail. As long as I learn something along the way.